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EU Presidency Condemns Iran For Executions

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- The European Union has denounced Iran for a recent spate of executions, highlighting the hanging of 20 drug traffickers on July 5.

The rebuke, issued by Sweden days after assuming the EU's rotating six-month presidency, comes as the 27-member bloc searches for a unified response to Tehran following its postelection crackdown and detention of British Embassy staff.

"The [EU] Presidency strongly condemns the executions in Iran during the past few days, in particular the execution of 20 persons in Iran on 4 July," Sweden said in the statement, adding Iran should abolish the death penalty entirely.

Prior to the weekend hangings, Iranian media reported last week that six drug traffickers were executed in a prison in Qom and six people were hanged for murder in Tehran.

On July 3, EU countries summoned Iranian ambassadors to protest the detention of British Embassy employees, and are mulling tougher measures in future such as visa bans and the withdrawal of EU ambassadors from Iran.

While the EU has led the international outcry over Tehran's crackdown on demonstrators protesting Mahmud Ahmadinejad's victory in the June 12 presidential election, some of the bloc's members fear going too far and derailing talks on Iran's nuclear program.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for harsher sanctions against Iran, but analysts say Germany and Italy are among the skeptics.